American Airlines Eagle
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

The Seat Recline Debate Continues With Video — February 2020 Edition

In what may be classified as a moment of ridiculousness in the latest edition of the seat recline debate, Wendi Williams — who calls herself wendi on Twitter — posted a video of her experience aboard an airplane which operated as American Eagle flight 4392 from New Orleans to Charlotte on Friday, January 31, 2020 in which the passenger behind her kept nudging her seat annoyingly in what can be perceived as a childish manner.

The Seat Recline Debate Continues With Video — February 2020 Edition

Seat recline
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The backstory — according to this message which was posted on Twitter by wendi — is as follows:

I was returning from a teachers’ convention. The man asked me, with an attitude, to put my seat up because he was eating. I did. I then reclined it again when he was finished. At that point, he started hammering away at me. That’s when I started videoing and tried to call the FA.

The actual text which accompanied the video in the message that was posted on Twitter is as follows…

Here’s a great jackhole! He was angry that I reclined my seat and punched it about 9 times – HARD, at which point I began videoing him, and he resigned to this behavior. The other jackhole is the @AmericanAir flight attendant who reprimanded me and offered him rum!

…and so, the debate was on with which opinions were sharply divided: did wendi have a right to recline her seat whenever she felt like it? Did the man behind her have a right to be so angry as to act out his frustration and anger in a puerile manner? Should he have been grateful when she supposedly returned her seat to its upright position during meal time at his request?

The flight attendant aboard the airplane allegedly sided with the male passenger and gave him rum while admonishing wendi for recording that video and ordering her to delete it.

When the FA came. She rolled her eyes at me and said, ‘What?’ She then told him it was tight back there and gave him rum! She told me I had to delete the video! It’s against the law to video on a plane. I asked her name & She gave me a Passenger Disturbance Notice!

Prior to the male passenger acting out his aggression in the video, wendi claimed that he “punched” the back of her seat “about 9 times – HARD” and called it “assault”

…but is what he did truly assault on her?

She supposedly received an apology from American Airlines and announced her intention to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States.

I was contacted via phone by @AmericanAir, they apologized but really didn’t accept any responsibility for the flight attendant’s actions. I will be calling the FBI to press charges against the ‘man’ who mistook me for a punching bag. Anyone who doesn’t like it, I don’t care!

Do not blame wendi for thinking about contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation pertaining to this incident, as she claimed that someone at American Airlines gave her that idea.

TBC it was AA which told me to contact the FBI, bc they don’t care (I know you don’t care either, except you’re on Twitter talking about it). But you were clearly there, so do tell me more about my experience; I’m on the edge of my reclined seat!

All of this chazerai over seat recline aboard an airplane.

The Source of the Seat Recline Problem?

Seat recline
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Republic Airways is a regional carrier for American Airlines which actually operated the aircraft in question; and the flight was reportedly late by 30 minutes. Could that issue have contributed to this situation?

Perhaps the travails of everyday life — or some traumatic experience — happened to affect both passengers who were involved in this incident?

Although I never really was much into her comedy, I remember a routine performed by Ellen DeGeneres back in 1996 which I had always felt best illustrated how ridiculous is this conundrum of reclining seats on commercial aircraft:

…which is why I never really understood the debate. Are we really talking about a huge difference? The seat recline is only a few inches at most, if that. Why are people so adamant about whether or not a seat is reclined to the point where they might believe that it is a “God-given right”?

Perhaps this video pertaining to Vasu Raja — who is the senior vice president of network strategy for American Airlines — proclaiming that the density of seats aboard an airplane is good for customers might offer some insight into the consternation of passengers and why a greater number of them purportedly have been more hostile in recent years, as reported in this article by Gary Leff of View From The Wing.

A greater density of seats usually means less room for passengers — which means that as anemic as the angle of reclining a seat might be, every fraction of an inch matters regarding the threshold of comfort versus discomfort for a passenger…

…and once that threshold is crossed, some passengers tend to lose their civility and will lash out at just about anyone who disagrees with their point of view — especially when related to their comfort.


I do like to recline my seat — even if the additional comfort is only marginal at best…

I forgot who took this photograph of me reclining in a lie-flat seat — but this was in the premium class cabin and not the economy class cabin.

…but since learning over the years of how adamant are FlyerTalk members on either side of this issue, I have since resorted to the practice of asking the passenger behind me if he or she minds if I recline my seat — even though I am technically not required to request permission — and I cannot recall my request ever being denied.

What a simple solution that can easily avoid confrontations such as the one highlighted in this article.

Jbelkin — who is a reader of The Gatecommented in this article pertaining to the last edition of the seat recline debate that “Reclining made sense when seats were far apart but now, one nice thing about flying econo carriers is no recline at all which is what it should be — prob saves on weight and cost. If you want to recline, buy a higher class — as you note, it’s not like that 2.’ of recline actually makes a diff. Remove recline.” I am not completely convinced that that is the solution. Having been a passenger on airplanes operated by Ryanair the first time and the second time as well as my experience as a passenger with Vueling Airlines — seats do not recline aboard the airplanes of either airline — I personally would have liked to have had the option of reclining my seat, as the seats themselves were not all that comfortable.

The problem with the seat recline wars stems more from selfishness and self-importance — along with a lack of consideration and respect for fellow passengers — rather than from the issue of comfort, in my opinion. As with similar heated debates over armrests and children and window shades and swapping seats, passengers should be able to quickly work out a compromise without having to resort to confrontations to resolve what should be a simple minor issue at best. If passengers were more polite, considerate and respectful of each other, this whole debate over the recline of seats on commercial aircraft would be a minor issue at best — if at all.

In this case, there certainly was no need and no reason for the situation to get out of control by the two passengers in question to the point of resorting to childishness, as the behavior of both of them was inexcusable and unacceptable. We may not even know the complete story here; but the video shows that the male passenger clearly misbehaved obnoxiously — and the way wendi handled criticism of her actions in her official Twitter account suggests that she did not exactly handle the situation maturely either.

In other words, I do not believe that either passenger was completely innocent in this incident — common sense and decency would have gone a long way towards avoiding it from happening in the first place — and perhaps neither the flight attendant nor other employees of American Airlines may have handled it in exactly the best way possible.

I have written extensively over the years pertaining to the seat recline debate aboard airplanes in the form of articles posted here at The Gate — including:

All photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

  1. That guy is just upset because he got stuck on back of the plane with a non reclining seat. That’s his bad luck and just needs to deal with it. I lose my mind and yell at people who play games tapping the screen. If someone did that we would both be taken off in handcuffs. If your seat reclines your entitled to that little extra comfort. Look at it in reverse lets say she put her seat up to make room for him now she has to suffer because most likely the person in front of her is also reclined now his problem is her problem. Should she now punch the person seat front of her? And so on all the way up to the front? Sorry you have bad luck stuck in the non-recliner but ill be dammed if ill give up my good luck putting myself in same situation as you. Unless your willing to have everyone in that column to raise their seat so the whole plane suffers.

  2. Extraordinarily rude man + Easily offended woman + Hours suspended in midair together = OH MY GOODNESS!
    (1) Adults do not punch, shake, kick, or otherwise unnecessarily touch the seats (or other belongings) of others. Under any circumstances. In any location. Certainly not in cramped conditions 30K or so miles in the sky.
    (2) If the seat is allowed to recline, the user should be allowed to recline it. If the airline does not want passengers reclining, they should remove the option.
    (3) This is not assault. It is an insult to those who have actually been assaulted to suggest so. It was tacky and childish but not assault.
    (4) The FA may well have offered the free drink to quietly diffuse the situation, not to reward bad behavior. Maybe give her the benefit of the doubt?
    (5) This woman assumedly controls a classroom full of children while simultaneously educating them but cannot handle one annoying man? Quite surprising!
    (5) As unfortunate as it was for Wendi to deal with this annoyance during her flight, the continuation of this squabble for over two weeks is as inane as the initial disturbance. Grow up people!

    1. You missed the part where she explains that he punched her seat 9x, hard, then she starts recording, which is when he resigned himself to what you see him doing in the video. She didn’t record him punching hard 9x.

  3. Regardless of how childish it is or is not, it’s not acceptable for people to be posting on social media videos of other people just because they don’t like what they are doing. I bet they wouldn’t do it if they videoed someone robbing a bank, they would be too scared that a friend of the robber would come and get them.

  4. Fights over the armrest, passengers who turn on the reading light when everyone is asleep, seatmates with bad breath, seatmates who smell, seatmates who turn off your air circulation, seat mates who are too large for their own seats and spill into yours, sick seatmates, crying babies, children who can’t keep quiet, adults who can’t keep quiet, drunk adult passengers, getting bumped by the flight attendant, getting bumped by the drink cart, people grabbing your seat from behind, people kicking or bumping your seat, getting reclined on, having to get up because your seatmate has to use the bathroom, having to get up multiple times, lav out of water, dirty lav, ear-deafening flight announcements, broken IFE, broken audio port, broken air circulation, broken chair, thin seat cushions, dirty seat cushions, getting stuck on the tarmac, passengers who get up while taxiing, weather delays, weather cancelations, being rebooked to inferior flights on inferior seats, rude gate agents, lying gate agents, passengers cutting in line

    Fly enough and everyone experiences it

    The video is just a normal day of flying tbh

  5. FBI ? Really. She needs to get over it. The guy snapped obviously but nothing that needs to involve the FBI, makes her seem really stupid and also sways my opinion that she must have started the whole thing.

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